2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupé Review

2011 BMW 1M

A no-fluff review for a no-fluff car? Sounds good, no?

The BMW 1 Series M Coupé (let's call it the 1M) is so simple, focused and free of needless add-ons that it's made this writer want do something similar for his review.

Premise? The go-fast gurus at BMW's in-house performance M division took the regular 1 Series and tweaked the stink out of it, adding significantly to the styling, handling, performance and braking capabilities of the standard car. And that standard car didn't really lack for styling, handling, performance or braking capabilities. Bless you, BMW, for not leaving well enough alone.

Cranked to Eleven

But anyhow. The 1M. It's like they put the modest little 128i on an all-steroid diet, emptied a syringe of illegal stimulants into its neck, and sent it to the gym. It looks so muscular, it's nearly busting out of its own skin. If it weren't made of sheet metal, it'd probably have stretch marks.

The important stuff? The 1M packs 335 horsepower up front, a 6-speed manual in the middle, drives the rear wheels, and gets a really loud exhaust system at the back. There's no fluffy, sissy stuff, here. And that's perfect, if you like performance cars without fluffy, sissy stuff.

You can't even get the 1M with a sunroof, fog lamps or an automatic transmission. Performance cars don't need such junk.

Sure - 1M needs to have airbags, Bluetooth and power windows. It is a BMW after all. But the simplistic approach should be welcomed by many enthusiasts nonetheless. Regardless, this is a hell of a performance car engineered to delight drivers with all systems cranked for maximum hooliganism.


Flared fenders accommodate wide wheels wrapped in sticky, high-performance Michelin Pilot tires. There's a track-ready braking system with cross-drilled rotors for consistently powerful stopping, and the front bumper has more air intakes than a fighter jet, including ducts for the intercooler system. The rear end is decorated with four exhaust pipes and the colorful little "M" badge, too.

This car is a big deal and looks that way. In gearhead circles, arriving somewhere in a 1M is like showing up to a party with your new best friend Brad Pitt.

M-Power turbo six

Powering it all up is a 3.0L straight-six, twin-turbo engine that cranks out 335 ponies. Acceleration is very potent, the rear end squirms for grip through most of first and second gear, and gears shift quickly via the short, tight 6-speed shifter. The clutch is sporty and grabby, but light enough for use in daily traffic, and the stability control system is expertly tuned to let you safely explore the 1M's limits. And the sound from that exhaust system is sweet, mellow and saturating - even at idle.

2011 BMW 1M

Stand on it, and the 1M blasts down the road quickly enough to make passengers drop F-bombs. Hell, even in sixth gear, rolling on the throttle summons a rich surge of torque that sends the 1M sailing past slower traffic in a jiff. And there's an 'M' button which engages a sport mode that dials up the throttle and steering for maximum entertainment value, too.

Dancing on the tarmac

Add in the quick, heavy steering and track-tuned suspension, and you've got a car that's well equipped to chew through straight stretches, corners and everything in between. The 1M doesn't bite into the road so much as it dances over top of it. With a short wheelbase, tons of torque and a light and eager rear end, it's a lively and athletic car to drive the pants off of. You can literally feel everything the suspension and chassis are up to when you push it hard.

Unfortunately, this is one of those cars that thanks you for pushing it hard. It'll get the hearts of enthusiasts pumping faster than eating a family-sized poutine, and the performance is so obnoxious, it'll make you want to drive like you're from Montreal. So watch for speeding tickets.

And not that it matters, but the 1M also turns in great highway mileage when you're not in a hurry. Overall, I managed 11.0L/100km.

Simple, small and focused cabin

2011 BMW 1M

Inside, the tester got suede trim, a unique new instrument cluster, and a mainly black color scheme. It's all simple, concise and focused. Rear seats are alright for younger passengers or shorter adults, and front bucket seats are motorized and fitted with adjustable side bolsters.

Even after a week though, I personally couldn't get comfortable in the 1M's seats - thanks to a tall seating position and awkwardly shaped backrest. Entry and exit are tight as well, and a little more at-hand storage would have been appreciated. This is a small car, and bigger guys and girls will notice it.

Pricing? The loaded tester came in a tick over $61,000. That's expensive on one hand, especially in light of certain American models that pack plenty more underhood artillery for similar money. Shelby GT500 Mustang, anyone?

But the 1M is also a hell of a deal. Handing back the keys to BMW's twitchy orange missile after a week's drive, I couldn't help thinking it was about 90 percent as much fun to drive as a Porsche 911 GTS - but at half the price.

Put this one on your 'to test drive' list if you're after a no-bull performance weapon with compact car driving dynamics, track-ready performance and years of high-velocity expertise built in.